کور / بېلابيلي لیکني - پخوانۍ / “advancing national interests or promoting their values?”

“advancing national interests or promoting their values?”


“Powerful vs. Small States in their use of Foreign Aid; advancing national interests or promoting their values?”  

If the provision and grant of foreign aid to the needy and vulnerable states by the wealthy and prosperous ones, is to enhance and promote values, then why the concept and existence of foreign aid does not possess centuries old history? If foreign aid is intended for the promotion of values, why do donor states target specific states for their generous grants which are generally not the poorest ones? If it is for expansion and promotion of values and for humanitarian causes, why are those states directly and indirectly forced by external actors to form alliances and participate in the process of foreign aid allocations provisions?

National Interest of a particular state may change with accordance to various factors directly and indirectly affecting it, but values, although not constant, do not change overnight. There for what a particular state interpret and denote as national Values, are in fact national interests.

According to Lancaster (2007: 3-4), Liberal Internationalists and others of the liberal tradition in international relations would see foreign aid as an instrument or reflection of the tendency of states to cooperate in addressing problems of interdependence and globalization. Growing amounts of aid have been channeled through international institutions and used to expand international (public goods), such as controlling the spread of infectious diseases worldwide or reducing environmental degradation.

Marxist and anti Globalization scholars have a different take on the purpose of foreign aid: They regard it as a tool of dominant states at the centre of world capitalism to help them to control and exploit developing countries. They point to plenty of instances of foreign aid being tied to the export of goods and services from donor countries or securing access to needed raw materials imports on the part of those governments.

Foreign aid has also been interpreted through the lenses of “constructivism”, as the expression of a norm that has evolved in relations between states that rich countries should provide assistance to poor countries to help the latter better the quality of lives of their people.

Realists argue that bilateral aid donors have been driven importantly by their own interests: for example, the United States has been motivated by cold war concerns; the French by maintaining a postcolonial sphere of influence in Africa.  

I argue that “National Interest” is the predominant and prominent factor in the provision and use of Foreign Aid, by both the powerful and smaller states. Firstly, I will try to explain what National Interests in present day context are, then I will elaborate on the concept of Foreign aid and finally I will put in some facts and figures together to support my argument in the contexts of both powerful and smaller states.   

National interests of a particular state are not constant and thus change with accordance to the domestic and international political, social and economical diversities. Those in power at times construct issues as of national importance, while other times their internal and or external forces influence the identification of national interests.

Of the seeming and real innovation which the modern world has introduced in to the practice of foreign policy, none has proved more baffling to both understanding and action than foreign aid. Nothing even approaching a coherent philosophy of foreign aid has been developed.” (Morgenthau, 1963, from Hook, 1995).

Other factors of importance to the state and its citizens could be included in the broader context or agenda of national interest but they cannot replace and or could be pro-claimed of more importance than national interest.

Krasner (1978) argues that “a statist paradigm views the state as an autonomous actor. The objectives sought by the state cannot be reduced to some summation of private interests. These objectives can be called appropriately the national interests”.  

Today Foreign Aid has become a common element in relation between rich and poor states(Lancaster, 2770: 33). I would here by argue that “Foreign Aid” has always been an instrument of foreign policy, used advantageously by donor states-regardless of them being powerful or smaller in their relations with more fragile states, there for, I question if there could be a force other than “National Interest” as stronger to persuade states, obtain and maintain these relations?

“History frequently reveals that States act according to their power interests(Smith, 1986: 1).

Therefore, in response to direct and indirect domestic and international influence and forces; “Foreign Aid” for national interest, is frequently coated with the labels of the so called “Promotion of National Values” and serving the humanity.

Morgenthau (1973) further argues that “states persons may define their goals in terms of humanitarian, economic or social ideals, but the immediate aim is always power”.

The foreign aid programs and projects implemented, both by powerful and smaller states, are designed to mainly serve the aims concerned to national interests, while they are presented to the general domestic and international public in a digestible and easily acceptable way, so to enhance the attraction of citizens towards both participation and support of these so called “government secret agendas”.  

Lundsdane, (1993) argues that “foreign aid, which is an instrument of foreign policy, is regarded as high-yield investments in to commerce and security by elites, whereas the public considers foreign aid to be extended for reasons of morality and the purchase of loyalty”.

Alden and Schurmann (1990: 13) argue that statespersons gain the necessary passive support for their policy agendas by relying “either on interest based appeals or on value-based appeals or some combination of the two.  An interest based appeal occurs, for instance, when a policy formulator draws the connection between foreign issues and jobs for citizens in that particular aid giving state, whereas the insulation of foreign affairs in statements of moral obligation would be an example of value based appeal.

It could be serving the causes of each of the mentioned categories of public in the course or they might visualize it with accordance to their self interests, but generally, it mainly addresses the national interest of a particular state.

Lancaster (2007: 3) states that “the path by which the norm of “Foreign Aid” develops, involves the domestic political process of Aid giving countries, international trends and events, and pressures from international organizations that supported the use of aid for human betterment”.  

There might be more than one driving forces engaged in the process of persuasion, but the most important part of the story is, that of how to chanalize and lead this process?  A convincing and realistic response would be that only “National Interest” can be the sole source of options for a broader framework to accommodate all the variable tiny interests of domestic and international influential forces.

Supporting the notion, that the promotion of values tops the agenda when it comes to foreign aid by the smaller donor states would argue that the power of what are called ethnic or religious affinity organizations, multinational Corporations and other interest groups have been promoting aid to their favored countries.  

But has it only been promotion of the individual and group interest or does it really have a really matters and plays a decisive role in directing foreign aid?

Analyzing the notion of “Foreign Aid” in the period of cold war which is believed to had commenced immediately, after the end of world war two may provide us with a clear vision of how this concept came in to being, what main driving forces were involved and what short term and long term aims were in the pipeline by both powerful and smaller states as influential actors on both poles (the so called “communist and Capitalist blocs). The United States and its allies (powerful and smaller aid giving states) in recognizing communism as their biggest enemy used all their possible means and sources, which included foreign aid as an essential and effective tool, to contain the ideology from spreading in the world, while on the other hand USSR and china had the same strategy under implementation, for the elimination and containment of the opposite. It was a cold war between two ideologies which were believed to be the prime national interests of the states indulged on both sides and “foreign Aid” was considered the weapon of not only containment but also conquer and conversion.  

Taking U.S as an exemplary case study, I it is here by argued that promoting freedom, security and opportunity which are the key components of “National interests” comprises the core mandate in US foreign aid policy. The disbursement of foreign aid by the United States has been driven by the interaction of politico-strategic and economic interests.

Those who disagree with the argument, that National Interest being the prominent if not the sole force behind foreign aid; may put forth the addresses made consecutively by the two Presidents of the United states, “Truman and Kennedy” in 1949 and a dozen of years later, where they emphasized on only values being the driving force behind United States aid program.

Truman in his address said:  “More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching miseries, their food is inadequate and they are victims of diseases. For the first time in history humanity possesses the knowledge on the skills to relieve the suffering of these people. Our aim should be to help the free people of the world, through their own efforts, to provide more food, more clothing, and more materials for housing and more mechanical power to lighten their burdens”.   

A decade latter, President Kennedy renewed the commitment which was a blend of moral and interest based appeals. To garner support for these endeavors, Kennedy asserted “We Pledge our best efforts to help the needy, for what ever period is required, not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

If the above statements made by the two presidents were the baselines on what United States foreign aid program was claimed to be based on, or was in pipeline for the phase, then the question arises that why during that period of time programs, such as, Peace Corp, the Agency for International Development (AID) and other government sponsored programs were inspired by US officials to influence economic agenda in poor nations. The answer is that humans are relatively easily and rapidly persuaded for support and action for a humanitarian cause, there for statesperson normally coat and or align national interest with national values and humanity related issues to enhance greater public support for the so called “hidden agendas” and its implementation in the paradigm of national interest. Thus governments tend to emotionally involve the citizens of that particular country to achieve moral and financial support their foreign aid programs, as Morgenthau 91973) argues, “Statespersons may define their goals in terms of humanity, economic or social ideals, but the immediate aim is always power”.  

Water Rostow, who was the most successful intellectual entrepreneur of his day in influencing aid policies in the US and who has played a vital role in shaping United States foreign aid program, argued that discontent and despair in the developing societies could lead to support radical doctrine, including communism. He further states that it could even happen in societies where modernization did occur, the stresses of fundamental social economic changes could also make radical ideologies attractive, there for foreign aid could play a key role both in spurring modernization in developing countries and in reducing the stresses associated with that process.   

As a case study, I will now take the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and mainly Denmark) to argue and thus support my point of view of that “National Interest” has always played the key role in the process of architecture of the foreign policies of the smaller states and their implementation. National Interest, occupying the outmost important position in the definition of priorities in the mentioned states, while Foreign aid being a essential component of the foreign policy, all other interests, aims and ambitions are considered secondary.

David Griffiths and Douglas McKenzie (1990: 9) denote the idea by stating that “States are assumed to want some combination of power, security and wealth”. These are the guiding principles for both powerful and smaller states on which they base and thus chanelize their foreign policies.   

In support of the notion that smaller state’s foreign aid policies and programs incorporate the promotion of values come up with the following arguments and instances.

According to Lancaster (2007: 30), “Analysts of the motivation of aid giving on the part of Scandinavian governments often point to their shared values and norms- the social democratic orientation and the Christian heritage including sponsoring missionary activities abroad”.

The north African state, Tanzania was popular in Denmark because its president, Julius Nyerere was seen as holding values and pursuing policies very much in line with the values shared by many Danes and especially by the social Democrats and other left-wing parties in power there (Lancaster, 2007: 193).

To refute, I argue that special interest of aid giving country in a particular state does not represent the whole foreign aid system. It has to be evaluated in a broader spectrum, while what is denoted on the screen, to the media and to the public is normally not the true factor behind an action.

A considerable portion of Danish foreign aid is associated with its commercial interests and activities in the developing countries. In most cases Danish aid is conditional on the potential of investment and trade opportunities in the subject country.

Aid planners from the beginning made an effort to create a strong coalition of inter-commercial as well as development-oriented-as well as public support for Danish Assistance.

It has long been the case that roughly half of the Denmark’s bilateral aid is dedicated to promoting Danish exports and investment abroad (Lancaster, 2007: 190). 

In 2003, the government of Denmark produced a white paper, A World of Difference: The government’s vision for new priorities in Danish development assistance during the period 2004-2008. The list of these priorities for Danish aid in the future included poverty reduction, human rights, democratization and governance, stability, security and the fight against terrorism; refugees, humanitarian assistance with special emphasis on the countries from which refugees in Denmark originated; the environment; and social and economic development. Two issues “fight against terrorism and refugees” which were never prioritized in the past are included in to the list.

Most of these priorities indicate the prominence of national interest in Danish foreign aid programs. Fighting terrorism, provision of aid to the refugee’s countries of origin could be taken as two identical instances.  It was cold war issue combined with domestic politics that led Norway to establish a more formal government program of aid in 1952 (Lancaster, 2007, 30).

Lancaster (2007:31) further elaborates that “the rising pressure from the United States on its friends and allies in Europe for greater burden-sharing contributed to the establishment during the first half of the 1960s, of government aid programs in these countries”.  United State’s allies in Europe include a number of smaller donor states. To further dissect the Danish foreign aid program, let us see how it is formulated and thus confirm that it is mainly, if not entirely driven by interest based intentions, visions and actions,.

The Danish aid programs and projects guided y an advisory council named the “Board on International Development Cooperation”, consisting of nine individuals drawn from major domestic groups with an interest in aid (e.g. Development-oriented NGOs, the agricultural council of Denmark, The Danish federation of trade union, the federation of Danish industries, the scholarly and research community, youth groups, and prominent individuals.  

I reach to a conclusion that, “Foreign Aid” can be framed and reframed in terms of a number of domestic and international norms but the ultimate focus would be on national interest, as Alden & Schurmann (1990) argue “Beyond the irreducible, basal interests of physical survival, national freedom, and economic sustenance, it is hard to conceive of obtaining a consensus on national interests in dominant countries.